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Parents Unite Behind Race To The Top Funds

— Groups of San Diego County parents are uniting behind an education reform strategy that could earn California $700 million of federal stimulus grants.

Parent organizer Donna Cleary gets students to sign a Race To The Top petition.
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Above: Parent organizer Donna Cleary gets students to sign a Race To The Top petition.

The federal grants are called Race To The Top funds. California stands to get a chunk of the $4 billion program. However, state lawmakers must first change a number of education laws so California can be eligible.

Changes to those laws allow the state to lift a cap on charter schools, link teacher performance to student test scores and turnaround failing schools.

A growing number of San Diego County parents are pushing community leaders to support the changes. Groups such as Californians for Quality Education and Voices For Our Kids are backing the Race To The Top movement.

Donna Cleary, a mother of three San Diego school students, says the Obama administration created this opportunity for states like California.

“I think in Washington D.C., (lawmakers) see states that are just floundering in the education system,” Cleary said. “This opportunity, the Race To The Top funds, is perfect for California. We're crazy not to go after it.”

But not everyone agrees. Local and state teachers unions still oppose the reform guidelines outlined in the Race To The Top program – specifically judging teachers’ performance based on how students perform on standardized tests.

They say there’s not enough evidence to show these kinds of reforms will make a better educational system. Others believe it's not worth changing state education laws for a short-term monetary fix. They want the state to look at creating other sources of revenue in the form of taxes.

So far the state senate has passed the reform plan and it's now being considered by the assembly education committee. State lawmakers need to meet a January application deadline.

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